The Magic Carpet Ride is the official name of a 16-foot (4.9 m) high bronze statue of a surfer in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, that locals have nicknamed The Cardiff Kook, a name by which it has come to be known. The statue was commissioned by the Cardiff Botanical Society, and created by artist Matthew Antichevich, who is an Encinitas surfer and a teacher at Mount San Jacinto College, at a cost of approximately $120,000. It is mounted on a granite pedestal and stands by the side of the Pacific Coast Highway, next to the San Elijo State Beach campground. The $92,000 construction costs of the statue were raised by the Botanical Society, with the $30,000 installation costs met by the city of Encinitas. On the statue base are plaques upon which are recorded the names of the major donors who contributed to the Botanical Society for the erection of the statue, including Marion Ross.
The statue was intended to depict a surfer performing a "(backside) floater", but the Botanical Society ran out of money, and thus the statue is missing any actual surf. Antichevich was chosen from more than 50 bidders on the commission. His original design was in fact to be a female surfer on a breaking wave, but there was not the money for that, either, and the Botanical Society opted for a male surfer on a granite plinth, halving the amount of bronze required. Other proposed designs that were discussed with the Botanical Society included the figure of professional surfer Rob Machado and a surfer on a longboard. The Kook is intended, according to the artist and to Michael Ames Clark, the then chairman of the Botanical Society's selection committee, to represent the joy and awkwardness of a boy novice learning how to surf, in acknowledgement of the area's attraction for novice surfers.
The San Diego Architectural Foundation, in its annual "Orchids & Onions" awards for the best and worst architecture of the year, awarded the Kook an Onion in 2007. The nickname comes from a derogatory surfer slang name for a "wannabe" surfer, and reflects the low opinion that locals and surfers have of the statue. The Kook has been criticized by surfers for its shortcomings, and for what they state to be an unrealistic depiction of a surfer. In part this is attributed to a backlash against popular depictions of surfer subculture in general, by surfers who see their subculture as under pressure to be assimilated into the mainstream. Other critics have maintained that the feet are positioned incorrectly, the hands are odd in appearance, the figure is too thin and effeminate, and that the figure as a whole resembles more a novice surfer about to fall off his board than an experienced practitioner.
The level of criticism came as a surprise to both the Botanical Society and to Antichevich, who stated that he didn't expect the piece to be as widely misunderstood as it was upon its unveiling. The original models of the statue include the wave, and Antichevich has stated that had the wave been present, people would have understood better the surfing move being depicted. He also noted that it was impossible, whilst building the statue, to look at its hands from the necessary angles, since "I wasn't working 16 feet in the air.". Town deputy mayor, at the time of the Kook’s erection, Jerome Stocks has defended the statue, stating that to anyone who has complained he has responded "Well, you go raise your own 90,000 dollars and put up a statue that you like.". Currently, the statue is embraced by the community and has received a pretty good response as it has been a business boomer for local stores in the area and online, with 2 websites TheCardiffKook.info and TheCardiffKook .org The Cardiff Kook Costume 5k & 10k Run, a Kook Calendar and even a Kook Cafe, it has become the place for people to take a photo in Cardiff!
Alterations to the Kook
The statue has been repeatedly vandalized. It has been dressed up in, at various times: a pink pleated skirt, bikini top and lucha libre wrestling mask; a Zorro costume; a pumpkin head (at Halloween); a Santa Claus hat (at Christmas); a full Uncle Sam costume for United States Independence Day; the hood of the prisoner on a box photograph from Abu Ghraib prison; a clown costume; a loincloth and surrounded by a prehistoric setting while being snatched up by a sculpted pterodactyl in flight; and, most notably, a papier mâché statue of a shark about to swallow up the surfer from beneath.
Whilst officially discouraged by Encinitas' mayor, Dan Dalager, and city authorities, unofficially it is acknowledged that the repeated vandalism of the statue is a boost to Cardiff's tourist trade, as people come to see it. Antichevich regards the vandalism as an insult to his work. No legal action has been taken against the vandals, because no damage has been done to the statue itself. It does not cost the city extra to clean up the various defacements, but it does divert city manpower away from tasks that city public works employees could otherwise be doing. Mayor Dalager has stated that whilst he personally likes the attention that this gives to the statue, he does not want the city to be having to divert city time and money away from the city's real problems. Deputy city manager Richard Phillips concurred, comparing the vandalism of the Kook to school pranksters dressing up a school's mascot, stating that "it gets old" and that city time and money could be better spend fixing potholes than cleaning up pranks.
The shark was one of two prank additions to the statue performed by local artist Eric Hardtke, himself a sculptor who works in bronze and stone, and accomplices. The first was a 2009 addition next to the statue of a wave crashing down over the Kook, carrying a wire mesh outline of another surfer about to knock the Kook off his board. This wave still exists, since it was removed undamaged by city employees, and is stored at the ranch of Paul Ecke, a local grower of poinsettias. It is constructed of wood, paper, and chicken wire, and Hardtke stated that "It was to make the point that you could make a better sculpture for less money.".
The second alteration to the Kook by Hardtke was the shark. This 15 foot work was made of papier mâché over a wooden frame, and estimated by Hardtke to have consumed $450 and two weeks. It was constructed in two halves, which were then sealed together around the Kook using foam sealant that was moulded to resemble ocean spray coming down off the flanks of the shark. It was installed in the early morning, around 04:00, of 2010-07-24 by Hardtke and some two dozen friends, and had been presaged over the preceding few days by the appearance of similarly constructed shark fins, positioned across the street from the statue and gradually moved closer to the Kook over a period of days, to imply a shark drawing close underwater to the Kook. $400 in diverted employee time was used to clean up the shark. Unlike the wave, the shark was damaged when it was removed by four city public works employees, who took 10 minutes to split it apart using hand saws in the morning of 2010-07-26 and two hours overall to remove it.
Hardtke himself was not critical of the Kook, and considers it a fair representation of average surfers, saying that "I'm sure I look like that. That's why everybody is so down on it. They like to think they don't look like that, but they do.".
Early morning on April 1, 2011, San Diego based political activist Mark Dice tied a large silver helium "surveillance blimp" to the statue which had "Big Brother is Watching You" painted on the side, and an oversized (cardboard) security camera hanging from the bottom. Dice posted video online of the incident taking place which occurred just before sunrise. 
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- "Vandals Strike 'Cardiff Kook' Again: Surfer Statue Dressed As Zorro For Holiday Weekend". 10News. 2010-09-06.
- "Pranksters Dress 'Cardiff Kook' Statue As Clown". 10News. 2010-08-25.
- Jonathan Horn (2011-08-13). "Pterodactyl sweeps down on Cardiff Kook". The San Diego Union-Tribune.
- "Cardiff Sculpture Shows Shark Swallowing Surfer". 10News. 2010-07-24.
- "Creator Of Giant Paper Mache Shark Speaks Out 1 Day Before Removal". 10News. 2010-07-26.